While Michael Vick waxes about how Philadelphia has a chance to become “a dynasty,” the Giants can actually boast two championships in their last five seasons. Starting quarterback Eli Manning is all of a sudden the alpha-Manning, usurping his brother Peyton after passing him by with another Super Bowl victory, as well as earning the game’s MVP honors. He acknowledged earlier this offseason that the Giants happened to get hot at the right time and that their record wouldn’t normally guarantee a playoff berth. The team has gone under some considerable changes since they raised the Lombardi Trophy last February, with key members of their stretch run now playing for other teams.
Of course, what happens at training camp typically never has an impact on the regular season. Most position battles, while evaluated during training camp, often get decided within the first three weeks of the preseason. For the Giants, it isn’t simply about going through the motions. As defending champions, it’s likely the most positive environment for a training camp, if not the most complacent.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s voice bellowed unmistakably on the practice field as he instructed the players to begin warm-ups. Coughlin battled rumors of his impending departure all last season. There were reports that he had “lost the locker room,” and that his old-school “disciplinarian style” just no longer fit with today’s NFL culture. Those detractors were silenced, just as they were in 2007, as Coughlin stuck to his guns and brought a Super Bowl banner to MetLife Stadium in its inaugural season.
The New York Giants will be training at UAlbany until August 14. All sessions are free to the public, and begin at 1 p.m.
The loss of Travis Beckham and Jake Ballard left the Giants scrambling for new blood at the tight end position. Enter Martellus Bennett, signed away from Dallas after he struggled for playing time behind Pro Bowler Jason Witten. Bennett, who is better known for his lively Twitter account, could flourish in New York, but arrived at camp appearing out of shape and has been plagued by drops over the course of his career.
Their first two draft picks were spent on the opposite side of the ball as they selected running back David Wilson from Virginia Tech and wide receiver Rueben Randle from LSU. Wilson was the reigning ACC player of the year, and figures to work behind Ahmad Bradshaw, replacing Brandon Jacobs. Randle was considered one of the better receiving prospects in the draft but almost seems like a luxury given the talent the Giants have at wide out.
The Giants also acquired linebacker Keith Rivers from the Bengals in a relatively low-risk move considering Rivers is in the last year of his current contract.
Mario Manningham, arguably the hero of the Giants run through the NFC playoffs thanks to a number of brilliant and clutch receptions, has left the team to sign with the San Francisco 49ers. Same goes for running back Brandon Jacobs, thus justifying both of their early draft picks. Streaky cornerback Aaron Ross signed a deal with Jacksonville this offseason, which stings in the wake of the recent news regarding Terrell Thomas’ season-ending knee injury.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the Giants’ 2011 campaign was the emergence of the dynamic play-making receiver Victor Cruz. The 25-year-old New Jersey native admits there’s much less pressure this offseason compared to last, as his spot on the roster is all but cemented thanks to a breakout season that saw him collect 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Cruz has become an instant fan favorite, and his celebratory touchdown dance even had NBC piping in salsa music after he scored during a broadcast of Sunday Night Football.
Another star who has to be feeling much less pressure this summer is defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora. Last season started as a rocky one for Umenyiora, who was embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the Giants’ front office. While he signed an extension back in 2005 that paid him roughly $5.5 million per season, the going rate for a premier defensive end in the NFL has risen to almost $11 million a season. His 51 sacks in 77 games (including the playoffs) since signing that deal suggest he’s an elite level player.
Though, Umenyiora is likely benefiting from the Giants having one of the most impressive defensive lines in the entire league. He rejoins a unit that includes standouts Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Giants’ first round draft pick in 2011, cornerback Prince Amukamara, may be called upon to fill the gap in the secondary following the loss of Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross’ departure. Amukamara didn’t see NFL action until Week 11 last season, but made an immediate impact by intercepting Eagles’ quarterback Vince Young in his first series on the field.
The Giants, as defending champions, have the honor of opening the regular season with the annual Thursday night game on NBC. Their opponents will be the Dallas Cowboys, who would hope to make a statement against the champs on opening night. The Giants also figure prominently on the prime time schedules, playing another Thursday night game in Carolina on September 20 and again on Sunday Night Football against Philadelphia September 20.
Looking ahead to the latter half of the season, the team’s schedule following their Week 11 bye offers no easy victories. They start with a home game against Green Bay, followed by a divisional matchup against Washington on Monday Night Football before playing New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore. They close the season at home against Philadelphia. How they finish the season may be the difference between defending their crown or watching the playoffs unfold from home.
8/10 at 7:30 p.m. @ Jacksonville Jaguars
8/18 at 7 p.m. @ New York Jets
8/24 at 8 p.m. vs. Chicago Bears
8/29 at 7:30 p.m. vs. New England Patriots
2012 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Week 1 – 9/5 (Wed.) at 8:30 p.m. vs. Dallas Cowboys (NBC)
Week 2 – 9/16 at 1 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 3 – 9/20 (Thurs.) at 8:20 p.m. @ Carolina Panthers (NFL Network)
Week 4 – 9/30 at 8:20 p.m. @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 5 – 10/7 at 1 p.m. vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 6 – 10/14 at 4:25 p.m. @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 7 – 10/21 at 1 p.m. vs. Washington Redskins
Week 8 – 10/28 at 4:25 p.m. @ Dallas Cowboys
Week 9 – 11/4 at 4:25 p.m. vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 10 – 11/11 at 1 p.m. @ Cincinnati Bengals
Week 11 – Bye Week
Week 12 – 11/25 at 8:20 p.m. vs. Green Bay Packers*
Week 13 – 12/3 (Mon.) at 8:30 p.m. @ Washington Redskins*
Week 14 – 12/9 at 4:25 p.m. vs. New Orleans Saints*
Week 15 – 12/16 at 1 p.m. @ Atlanta Falcons*
Week 16 – 12/23 at 1 p.m. @ Baltimore Ravens*
Week 17 – 12/30 at 1 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Eagles*
*subject to NFL Flex Schedule